‘Traumatized’: Parents’ Newborn Taken Away From Them By CPS After Home Birth
In a recent press conference, the parents described how they chose to have a home birth on March 21, assisted by midwife Cheryl Edinbyrd. Their baby was born healthy, with the mother describing, “She was perfect: 6 pounds, 9 ounces.” Three days later, the couple took Mila to a pediatrician for a routine checkup. Little did they know, the checkup would lead to authorities taking their baby away from them— a fact loved ones see as a “kidnapping.”
After the parents took newborn Mila to a pediatrician, their world changed as they knew it
The couple explained how they took baby Mila to the doctor as a standard procedure. After they left, Dr. Anand Bhatt contacted them, informing Mila had jaundice with a high level of bilirubin. Elevated levels of bilirubin may indicate the liver isn’t clearing bilirubin as it should, but infant jaundice is actually quite common— it happens when a baby’s liver isn’t sufficiently mature to clear it.
In Mila’s case, her bilirubin level was at 21.7. As per Dr. Bhatt, “At a bilirubin over 20, a baby risks brain damage, because the bilirubin can cross the blood brain barrier.” Therefore, he advised the parents to take Mila for a phototherapy treatment at the hospital.
However, the parents opted for a phototherapy treatment at home instead, assisted by their midwife. Dr. Bhatt was allegedly unconvinced, and did not know if they had access to the correct treatment. Still, the Jacksons put him in contact with the midwife, planning to follow the treatment at home.
By that night, the mother remembers the doctor texting her “very aggressive,” telling her, “take her to the hospital or [I’m] calling CPS.”
At that point, the doctor got in touch with Child Protective Services
Dr. Bhatt says he contacted CPS “after trying 10 attempts to appeal to the family through phone calls, text messages and leaving voicemails as they did not pick up the phone.” He did assert that the “parents are very loving and they care dearly about their baby,” but referenced a “distrust for medical care” that was putting their newborn at risk. As per the doctor, their “distrust” was making them “refuse a simple treatment that can prevent brain damage.”
Meanwhile, the Jacksons see things differently. The mother explained, “Instantly, I felt like they had stolen my baby as I had had a home birth.” As she puts it, the parents are now being “treated like criminals,” which is “far from the truth.”
Days later, the couple was “traumatized” by Dallas police officers and CPS agents “banging [their] door” at 5 A.M. Authorities demanded they give them Mila, but they refused. Hours later, the officers came back, telling them the newborn was now in the custody of CPS— but the couple still did not give her up.
Days after that, the police once again returned to their home, arresting father Rodney Jackson in the process. They then took his keys, using them to enter the Jacksons’ home and take Mila from her mother.
To add insult to injury, CPS’s affidavit lists the wrong name for the mother, including the name of another woman who has a history of child neglect. As Temecia Jackson explains, “They were trying to say my baby belonged to this other woman.” Even worse, the couple still did not have a birth certificate for Mila, which undoubtedly only made the parents feel more powerless.
Where is the newborn now?
At this point, Mila is still with a foster family, and the mother feels like they have “stolen” her baby. They cannot even bring her breast milk, and also noted irritation in the newborn’s genitals since living in foster care. Now, they feel completely “helpless.”
As their midwife Edinbyrd said at the press conference, “This child was being nurtured. This child was being supported. And this child was being loved. And this child was kidnapped.”
There is no doubt the Jacksons’ situation is one deeply rooted in racism: as per the Child Welfare Information Gateway, families of color are “significantly” more likely than white families to be investigated by CPS. Meanwhile, a 2021 study shows that CPS investigation risks were “highest” for Black children, at 32.9 to 62.8%. In this case, a newborn was separated from her parents— and many are unconvinced that was the best course of action for Mila.
As Qiana Lewis-Arnold, a birth justice associate at Afiya, the organization helping the Jacksons, told Jezebel: “It would not be going this way if they were a white family… Police have always been a threat to Black families.”
Further, more and more women of color are choosing to give birth at home for a reason. As per a recent study by the National Partnership for Women and Families, “community births” increased by 30% in Black women from 2019 to 2020, and 24% among Hispanic women. Why? Because of the alarming maternal mortality rates in women of color, which are two to three times higher in Black women than in white women.
Temecia and Rodney Jackson now await their court hearing April 20.